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Would you take a pay cut to WFH permanently? 88% of our readers say no

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Findings follow Stephenson Harwood’s announcement last week that it will reduce salaries by 20% if staff choose to work from home full-time

The overwhelming majority of our readers say they would reject permanent home-working if it meant a reduction in salary.

Of the 3,100 respondents to our LinkedIn poll, a whopping 88% said they wouldn’t be prepared to accept the salary sacrifice, even if it meant no more costly London living and early morning commute.

The findings follow the news last week that staff at City law firm Stephenson Harwood will be allowed to work from home full time, but only if they agree to take a pay cut of 20%. For newly qualified associates at the firm, who have starting salaries of £90,000, this would equate to a cut of £18,000.

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Due to come into effect this month, the new agile option made national headlines and generated a lively debate within our comments section.

“Good”, one reader wrote. “More firms, especially London-based firms should be doing the same”. Another, meanwhile, explained how they would be prepared to take up the offer, if the cut was closer to 10% and they had “no intention of making partner”.

Others were less welcoming of the policy. “Are they charging their clients 20% less for their time, or requiring them to do 20% less hours?” one LC reader questioned. “Pretty poor considering how much more work some of us end up with at home to add a pay cut on top,” another added.

But the question remains: will other big legal players follow?

Would you take a pay cut to WFH permanently? Let us know in the comments 👇

25 Comments

Anon

So backward thinking. People WFH will have increased costs if anything (using more electricity and gas at home etc.) so this approach simply doesn’t make sense. Not least because lawyers can easily flock to their competitors… what a silly move during a talent shortage / the pay wars.

Realist

Yes the costs of the utilities will far outweigh the saving of living up north where houses cost a fraction of tbs price in London…

Anon

Not everyone wants to move up north mate.

PD

Not everyone wants to Live South of Birmingham especially London

You can shove your salt of the earth

There is a reason the North is that cheap.

SH Associate

Blown way out proportion- we have been told that generally we are expected in 3 days a week and two days WFH.

We have been given the choice to WFH full time with a 20% deduction in pay. It is our choice whether we want to or not.

Anon

SH HR*

Bob

Proving that money beats convenience and laziness every time

Anonymous

What a joke! I actually interviewed at this law firm and now I’m glad I didn’t end up working there. To suggest a 20% reduction in pay if disagreeing with the 3 days in the office + 2 WFH policy is a disgrace given that the heads of this law firm are getting £1million+ per year salary! People join global law firms for the big salaries, not because they ‘love’ working in a stressful environmental. Working in an international law firm is not for everyone. With the proposed reduction in pay for non-comformers, the staff retention at SH is gonna go down the drain! It’s simply saying: ‘We dictate our employees what to do or they’ll face financial consequences for their disagreement.’ Way to go! 👏🏻

Pardna

Except at entry level, partners want hour drones not people who enter with a resentment at the level of equity profits. Sorting out “conformers”, to use your phrase, like this makes sense.

Anna Crawly

Let’s try a little experiment, shall we?

Run another poll asking people if they would return to the office full time for 80% pay with none of their expenses covered for going into the office.

David

It depends on what wider weight is being lifted, or value is being added by those doing WFH permanently.

Take a simple example. Person A is in the office and records 1,800 billable in a year, plus being there to support/mentor more junior colleagues, and picking up wider things such as delivering presentations, attending events for BD purposes etc (say, 300 hours worth). Person B also records 1,800 billable but does not do any of the wider things that Person A is able to do by being present in person.

How should Person A be remunerated to account for the extra value and effort they have put in? Or should Person B to expected to (and is it feasibly possible for them to) pick up the slack elsewhere by carrying out other BD activity or perhaps even by billing more hours?

Ultimately people should be remunerated for the work that they do and the value that they add. It has been a bit of a PR nightmare for SH the way that their approach has been reported, but there is a discussion that needs to take place one way or another.

Anon

I think bonuses should reflect that extra contribution and not base salary, which is at the end of the day – as a fee earner – earning money for the firm through billable hours.

Associate

It doesn’t change the fact that its a rubbish deal. Should be a much less significant reduction for working the same hours. Firm will save in the long run on office space and keeping high charge out rates. In reality the NQ rate is only £7k more than what is being paid in the regions (£3.5k net and about £250pm extra in your pocket) and the expectations are much greater.

A Nonnie Mouse

Who is paying £83k NQ in the regions? I must have missed that one…

Associate

£7k MORE than what is being paid in the regions. You missed more than that one mate

Anon

I think this poster is talking about NQ rate after the 20 percent deduction in which case they are right but wasn’t worded very clearly.

Anon

Do the London offices of these sorts of firms ratchet up Associate salaries faster than your average regional firm does? I assume the salary differential could be bigger at say 4-5PQE (which realistically is when somebody might consider going full time remote, once they’re more likely to have kids / want to buy a house / have got fed up of London living)…

Marmot

I’d take the 20% if they allowed you to work from any territory where they have a presence (provided you work around UK office hours) and helped with any taxation issues.

£72,000 working from the French Alps doesn’t sound too bad and that’s at NQ level.

Anon

They seemed to be suggesting you’d need to go in at least one day a month which might start getting a bit inconvenient from abroad (and that’s assuming they’d cover the expenses).

Jerry

I’m glad some firms are trying to push people back into offices. As a junior lawyer, it’s pointless going into the office if senior lawyers are sat at home ignoring any attempts to get them to train or supervise you.

Pardna

Bill the hours. Training comes with billable hours.

Slagathor

Why not have a 20% paycut for every day you work from home? That achieves the same effect and allows more flexibility. This current deal cuts the pay of somebody who works from home 3.5 days by 20% compared to someone who works 3 days from home. Why have such a drastic cutoff?

Ron

That would make a fully remote role completely pointless. 20% x 5 means you’d literally be paid NOTHING. Nobody will be interested in that.

V

SH u better change this policy. Looking from the outside. I know if I was starting it would put off from applying there.

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